Cackle by Rachel Harrison

Posted On 17 October 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review: Is Cosy Horror Even Possible?

Cackle 2

Well, when I picked this up I had few expectations.  I didn’t really read the blurb and I hadn’t realised that the book was shelved in the Horror section.  Given the title I was expecting a healthy dose of witchery and with Halloween looming I thought this would be the perfect read for an autumn evening. In that respect, if cosy horror is a ‘thing’ then you’ll love this.  It’s not blood soaked and scary. Sure, there are a couple of scenes that feel menacing but I don’t think you’ll need to hide behind a cushion at any point.  I had strange Witches of Eastwick meets Stepford Wives vibes – although I’m not saying this story resembles either of those per se.  More I just got a feel in those directions occasionally.  Basically, this is more a book about finding yourself and discovering what you’re capable of.

The main character, Annie, has recently split up from her boyfriend.  This was a long term relationship that Annie seemed to think was the ‘real deal’.  Unfortunately, her ex, Sam, had other ideas.  In an attempt to start afresh Annie leaves Manhattan to live in a small village when she’s offered a teaching position. When she arrives she can’t believe how beautiful and picturesque the place is.  Everyone is kind and thoughtful and one resident in particular catches her attention.  Sophie is beautiful and sophisticated, graceful, generous and pretty soon an almost constant companion of Annie’s.  Oddly enough the rest of the residents seem strangely wary of Sophie or desperate to stay on her good side. Soon Annie starts to suspect that people are afraid of her new friend although she can’t understand why.

Sophie lives in a beautiful mansion deep within the forest. She’s capable and pretty soon it becomes evident that there’s more to her than originally meets the eye.  I won’t elaborate on that here.

So, the characters. Well, Annie is a strange character to really like at first, in some ways she comes across as a little lacking in backbone.  Her main focus in life is Sam and she practically fantasises about getting back together with him.  I do sympathise with her over the loss of a relationship that she thought was special but at the same time I wanted her to move on.  And, I guess Sophie wanted the same thing.  Sophie is a fascinating character and I confess that sometimes I was puzzled why she so quickly took Annie under her wing. But, I think, in a town where people are mostly suspicious of her, Sophie is also keen for friendship and at the same time sets herself up as a sort of mentor, trying to encourage Annie to stand up for herself.   Eventually, the two form a firm friendship and with guidance Annie slowly starts to realise that she doesn’t need a man in her life to be complete – or is she just kidding herself, us and Sophie?

The small town of Rowan is where my Stepford vibes came into play.  The village is positively idyllic.  Everywhere is beautiful and to be honest Rowan seems to glow with prosperity and success and yet the locals all seem to know their place when it comes down to their own local ‘wise woman’.  It feels like there’s an almost collective sense of fear or is it hysteria and people harking back to older times when a woman living alone was clearly a threat of some kind and surely meddling in the dark arts.

There is a creeping sort of menace.  You’re never really sure what route this strange new relationship will take.  Will it become obsessive or dangerous.  Without doubt Sophie can sometimes come across a little unnerving, like you wouldn’t really want to upset her even if you’re not sure why that is.  That being said Annie does begin to undergo a transformation of sorts, she eventually realises that she is capable of standing up for herself even where Sophie is concerned.

I mentioned above that this is cosy and I stand by that.  There’s a lovely warm feel to the story overall.  Even when some darker elements crop up.  The writing is really good, and although I might have had the odd issue here and there they don’t really merit a mention and I found myself quite absorbed, bewitched even.  A very easy to read story that I raced to complete mostly because I was never keen to put it down and always keen to pick it back up.  A book about self realisation, coming to terms with who you are, self love and worth that includes magical elements and curses.  A great book to curl up with at this time of the year.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4 of 5 stars

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